Often one of the first things someone will ask you when they first meet you is ‘What do you do?’. In answering this question, you will use labels for yourself. What labels do you use and what do they say about you?
The labels you use for yourself are one way you make sense of who you are and how you fit in the world. They can give insight into your beliefs and assumptions.
We can be cruel
We all have self-talk. You talk to yourself a lot and you are not always kind! Reflect on a time when you made a mistake or did something silly. What did you call yourself? You might have labelled yourself an idiot or stupid. When you look in the mirror, what labels do you use? Are you kind or cruel to yourself? If you were talking to a friend or colleague, would you use the same language? Take care over the language you use in your self-talk as it can impact your self-belief and confidence. It is more helpful if you label what you did rather than yourself. It is just as easy to be kind to yourself as it is to be cruel, choose to be kind.
Can you use labels in your self-talk for a positive outcome? It is a bit like a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you tell yourself, ‘I am confident’ more often then you will be more confident. It is not just the words here that matter. It is what you mean by the label confident. What does a confident you look like and how do you feel?
Labels – bring us together
What do you have in common with the people you love in your life? What about your work colleagues, what similarities do you share? You feel more comfortable with people who are like you, they share some of the labels you use for yourself. Your sense of belonging is stronger. Here the labels we use bring us closer to others.
There are, however, negative aspects. Have you experienced being overlooked for a promotion at work? Can you explore this in terms of labels? Does the person who was promoted ahead of you have more of the ‘right’ labels than you do? We all have unconscious bias in how we think and make decisions. There are often processes in place to counter this in organisations. If these are not strong enough there is a lack of diversity. There is clear evidence that increased diversity in leadership and decision-making leads to better outcomes.
Labels – drive us apart
What assumptions do you make when you label other people? The way we have evolved means that your brain is constantly on the lookout for danger. You pay more attention to difference than similarity. There are times when this is helpful but for most situations, I suggest it is not. Can you imagine what our world would be like if we all took more time to find how we are similar?
This is wonderfully illustrated in this video
Reality or not?
Do you have labels for yourself that are outdated or simply not true?
One label I have resisted using for myself is accountant. I am a qualified chartered accountant and have been for many years! So why was I so reluctant to use this label? The answer is what I believe the label represents, ‘accountants are boring’. I don’t want to be thought of as boring, who would? I know a lot of accountants and I would not call any of them boring!
This illustrates the difference between a belief that I held and reality I experienced. It also demonstrates that labels are superficial and open to different interpretations. What examples do you have?
I invite you to:
- Give some more thought to the labels you use for yourself.
- Be kinder in how you label yourself.
- Look for more similarities than differences with other people.
Can you think of labels for the person you want to be? This can help you to become that person.